Outdoor weddings sound like the perfect chance to capture great photos. After all, you don’t have to worry about blur and high ISOs from shooting in a dimly lit indoor venue. But outdoor wedding photography comes with its own set of challenges. These include uneven lighting, bright sun, dark shadows, and, of course, the weather. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
Advise the Bride and Groom on the Best Times of Day for Wedding Photos
Capturing great photos during an outdoor wedding starts well before the big day. Months before, in fact. During the early meetings with the bride and groom, you should offer advice on setting up the best light ceremony.
It’s not your job to plan the wedding. But offering advice on the time of day or location that will work best for outdoor photos is helpful. Let the bride and groom know that noon is the worst time to take pictures outdoors. Shooting later in the day is often more ideal.
The timeline can be more flexible, however, if the outdoor wedding is in full shade. Another thing to keep in mind? Make sure you’ll have enough light left to capture all the formal photos before sunset. It’s up to the couple to decide as to where and when to have their ceremony. But most non-photographers have no idea that a noon ceremony with no shade is a bad idea.
Offering tips and insight before the timeline is finalized can make a big difference. Accept when the ceremony can’t be moved to the shade or to a later time. But offer insight during the planning process so the couple can make an informed decision as they plan their day.
How to Prepare for Any Weather Conditions
Outdoor weddings can be spectacular ceremonies with golden light. Or they can be cold, rainy and moved into a tent at the last minute.
As the photographer, you should come prepared for the elements. Pack extra layers to stay warm and wear shoes that can be worn over rough terrain. Keeping sunscreen on bug spray on hand is a great idea as well. Preparing for the rain is vital. A cloak and a camera rain cover won’t take up much room in your bag. But they can be lifesavers on a rainy wedding day. Many wedding photographers even invest in enough umbrellas to still shoot outdoors with the entire wedding party.
For winter weddings, plan for the colder temperatures. The cold tends to drain batteries much faster. Even if you’ve never used a backup battery at a summer wedding, a winter wedding may drain that battery even before the reception begins. Choosing the right wedding photographer in Melbourne to capture every moment on your wedding day.
Use Fill Flash to Compensate for Bad Lighting
Before the ceremony starts, note where the light is coming from. Find the best places to stand to capture the best light.
One of the great things about outdoor weddings is that the photographer has a little more freedom to move around. Look for the angles that will both capture the moments and provide the best light.
Find the tricky lighting before the ceremony starts so you can decide how to tackle it. For example, does the aisle have sections of sun and sections of shade? You may want to time the aisle shots for when the bride is in the shade. Or, at the very least, be prepared to adjust the exposure settings from the sun to the shade.
Flash is often just as essential to outdoor weddings as indoor weddings. If the wedding is in the shade, the flash isn’t necessary on a cloudy day or during golden hour. But on a sunny day or shooting towards mid-day, using flash can fill out under-eye shadows created by lousy lighting. Or it can create a more even image when working with backlighting.
Understanding how to use and modify a flash to blend in with ambient light is essential for wedding photography. Some wedding days may not need a moment; others will be improved by adding even just a simple fill flash.
Keep the Highlights in Check When Setting the Exposure
An outdoor wedding ceremony tends to have more uneven lighting than an indoor ceremony, which can make setting the exposure a bit trickier.
When dialling in your camera settings, err on the side of underexposure. It’s better to have dark shadows than to blow out the highlights. No amount of post-processing can bring them back. If you can’t see the bride’s white dress’s details, your exposure is too bright.
In outdoor venues with uneven lighting, a semi-manual mode may be more appropriate than shooting in full manual. Using auto ISO inside the manual way or using shutter or aperture priority mode will allow you to keep up with the changing lighting, whether that’s a cloud going over the sun or the bride moving in and out of the shade in her walk down the aisle.
If you use a semi-manual mode, be sure to switch to a spot weighted metering mode. Some camera brands also have a highlight priority spot metering. This is designed to keep those highlights in check. Evaluative metering may not correctly expose the subject.
Minimize Distractions to Keep the Focus on the Subjects
Outdoor weddings are full of wide-open spaces — and sometimes cars in parking lots, power lines, road signs and more. During an outdoor wedding, pay attention to what’s in the background.
Noticing that a certain angle makes it look like a decorative lamp post is coming through the bride’s head, for example, will save you a lot of Photoshopping later.
Use compositional tools to minimize distractions, such as adjusting your angle or swapping lenses. The subject should be the priority. But looking for ways to reduce distractions in the background can spark creative ideas and cut down on post-processing time.
Take Wide Shots to Showcase the Atmosphere and Location
Outdoor wedding venues tend to be beautiful backdrops for those vows. Make sure to capture that beauty. The bride and groom chose that location for a reason.
Use a wide-angle lens to capture the entire venue. Mixed with close-ups of the details, the images will tell a better story of the couple’s day. Without walls’ limits, look for creative ways to capture the entire ceremony scene in one shot. A balcony from a nearby building can provide a bird’s eye view. Or backing up can show off the scene in all its glory.
Use a Polarizing Filter to Make the Sky Pop
Outdoor wedding photographers can learn a few tricks from landscape photographers, like using a polarizing filter.
Polarizing filters control reflective light. Along with creating neat effects like reflections off water, these inexpensive accessories will also help the sky pop. With a polarizing filter, the sky looks even bluer than without. Even the greenery of the foliage can sometimes pop more.
Because polarizers cut down on light, you won’t want to use one at the end of the day or indoors. But this simple accessory can make the sky during the outdoor wedding look much more dramatic.
Photograph Formals in a Shady Area or Backlit by the Sun
While you can’t change the ceremony’s location (besides offering tips and insight during the planning process), formals are more flexible.
When it comes to the formals portion of the day, prioritize the light. Look for a shady area, or if it’s later in the day, a spot that’s backlit by the sun.
The family photos, images of the bridal party, and portraits of the couple will look best when lit best. I love outdoor weddings because family portraits tend to look better outdoors in a well-lit location over dark indoor areas.
My go-to setup is to arrange the pose either backlit or in the shade. I use an off-camera flash to add catchlights in the eyes, more contrast, or more dramatic lighting effects.
Take Night Portraits of the Couple for Creative Photos
Most outdoor wedding photos are snapped during the day — and for a good reason. It’s the easiest time to get great shots.
But what about night photography at the end of the wedding day? Pulling the couple aside for a few quick photos outside at the end of the day can result in some dramatic images. For night photography, you’ll want either an off-camera flash or a video light. Both will work well.
Video lights aren’t as powerful but are easier to use for beginners, affordable. And they will help the camera autofocus in the dark as well. Besides just lighting the subject, look for lights in the background; otherwise, you will end up with the couple on a black background. Look for glow in the surrounding scene. These can be the lights from the venue, the lights from a city skyline, or string lights, to add interest to the background. Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.
Take Rainy Photos to Tell the Story of the Wedding Day
But what if it rains? Rain is often a significant concern for brides and grooms, especially for outdoor weddings.
The couple should plan for an alternative location for the ceremony to keep guests dry. But a rainy wedding day doesn’t have to mean 100 per cent of the photos are snapped indoors. With proper preparation, wedding pictures in the rain tell the story of the day. And they are often even more creative than the traditional wedding shots.
First, check with the couple to see if outdoor photos in the rain are still an option. I let my couples know ahead of time that rainy day photos are fun and creative. But I warn the bride that her hair may frizz a little from the moisture in the air, and the bottom of her dress may get a little wet and dirty.
Second, make sure you are prepared to keep your gear dry and functioning for the remainder of the wedding! A simple camera rain cover is a huge help. Look for a way to keep the bridal party as dry as possible. Look for a backup location for the formals with a large pavilion or other covered areas to help keep everyone dry.
Keep your eye out for sales on umbrellas, huge ones that will match any wedding decor, like plain black or transparent.
Finally, make the rain a positive feature in the photo, rather than a negative. If you place an off-camera flash behind the couple and use a fast shutter speed, those raindrops will sparkle. Rainy weddings are also great opportunities to look for reflections to use in the shot.
Tips for the Bride and Groom: Outdoor Wedding Ceremony
See the Light!
Often when you’re getting married at a venue, the venue coordinator gives you a ceremony time that most people use. It usually is between 4-6 pm. And while that is all fine and good, it’s usually the time that works best for the venue, not for your ceremony light.
Check out the ceremony site as close to your wedding date as possible (perhaps if you’re having a year or so engagement, you can check it out the year before) and see what the ceremony site looks like at that time. Take note of which direction the ceremony will be facing. Most venues choose a location where the sun is behind the guests. While it’s nice for your guest, that means that you and your lover may be standing in the total, glaring sun while you’re saying your I Do’s. This means you may be squinting, one of you may be in harsh shadow while another is entirely in sunlight, and both of you may end up very warm and possibly sweating – a lot.
Whatever the Weather We’re Together
No matter what time of year you’re getting married, having a plan for extreme weather is a smart move. Summers can be brutal! And sometimes even the autumns. Hot days are NOT unheard of or unexpected in the summer. Make your guests more comfortable by providing cold water (be careful with giving alcohol before or during the ceremony as that could dehydrate them even more!), sunscreen and a little shade. If the guests are sitting in the full sun, providing tiny umbrellas is a great way to keep them more relaxed and more comfortable while you say I Do.
A Beautiful Background
Wherever your ceremony is happening, think about what you’ll be standing in front of. Is the background of your photos going to be beautiful or dull? Will it add to your wedding’s theme or distract viewers both in person and in your photos? These are essential questions to ask when you’re planning the decor for your ceremony. Many couples seem to focus on what the aisle flowers will be and not on what will be going on directly. Having flowers or some other decorative touch on stands on each side of you is excellent for framing wider shots, but think of those close-up images as well. What will those look like with no flowers or decor in them? Adding some pizzazz to your background can be as simple as a wooden cross if Jesus is your jam or as intense as draping fabric to an ancient oak tree. Whatever you decide, those details add a special something to your ceremony photos. Work with your florist or wedding designer to get the perfect information to make your ceremony special.
Reuse Your Background as Reception Decor and More!
Your beautiful ceremony details and decor need not miss out on the rest of your wedding! Reuse them at your reception to keep a cohesive look and stay within your budget!
If you want to repurpose the ceremony flowers to the reception, think about their purpose in both spaces when planning your decor. Hanging arch arrangements (like the one above) can be designed in flat containers that can be removed after the ceremony and placed on the head table, becoming a low centrepiece. Garlands can be repurposed for the bar or buffet. Make sure there is plenty of time between the ceremony and reception for the arrangements to be moved. It works best to have your guest in another area, so the transition is seamless. Your ceremony backdrop can also be used for family portraits right after the ceremony, giving it more time in photos. But it doesn’t have to end with the wedding!
Unplug Your Ceremony. Please!
There is a saying in photography. You can’t be at the picnic and photograph the breeze. It is SO true. Photography is a distancing thing! It removes you from actually witnessing something. Looking at an event through a lens (or a phone screen) distances you from the event. You can’t be present. And while I think it’s nothing short of MAGIC that we carry computers in our pockets now, I am so sad that many guests feel getting a photo of your ceremony is more important than the ceremony itself. For me, this is the most sacred part of your wedding day. You promise your life to your person. You have invited people near and dear to you to bear witness to this monumental moment in your life. When you look out at your wedding guests, do you want to see their faces, or do you want to see their phones? Invite your guests to be present for your wedding by powering down their phones, tucking away their cameras and locking up their iPads while you say I do. Let your photographers record this moment for you. Let us photograph you and your guests watching you say your vows. Invite them to be present! You can find loads of great ideas for signage or vocabulary for your program about an unplugged wedding online. Trust me! You’ll be thankful later when you remember faces and not phones.
Tips for Wedding Photographer
- Have a plan to battle the mid-day sun.
- Control the timeline, control the light.
- Think about the direction of the morning when shooting.
- Know how much Depth of Field you want.
- Knock out the distracting elements.
- Be prepared for inclement weather.
- Plan your foreground and think about layering.
- Expose for the highlights.
- Overcome dynamic range challenges.
- Outdoor night wedding photography tips: plan, practice, and pay attention to ambient light.
- Outdoor wedding photography lighting tips:
- Use artificial light out of creativity rather than desperation.
- Start with a goal in mind.
Tips for Brides and Groom
- Look for shade at the venue, especially if the weather could be hot.
- Consider the lighting when planning your timeline.
- When possible, consider the direction of the sun when planning your ceremony location. Aim to have either your whole ceremony in the sun or all in the shade. This will make your photos more consistent.
- Ask to see some examples of outdoor weddings from your photographer, or stalk their blog. See if they capture the setting how you want to remember it.
- Be prepared for inclement weather with warm clothes, umbrellas, maybe even a change of shoes.
- Pick the right photographer, lean on them, and trust them to use their experience to capture your day.
- Take the time for portraits. It’s fun to step outside at night and look up at the stars with the one you love!
The key to successful outdoor wedding photography is preparation mixed with a bit of understanding on how to best tackle the different challenges that come with them. By preparing your clients, yourself and your gear and knowledge of how to adjust the camera settings and lighting best, you’ll be able to capture stunning, memorable images for the bride and groom. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.